A new study provides more evidence for a link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s, something that’s been hinted at before.
Published in the journal Diabetologia, researchers from the UK and China found that people with high blood sugar levels had a higher cognitive decline. This was based on data from 5,189 people over a decade.
They used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), with their participants having a mean age of 66 years and being 55 percent women.
“While other studies have linked cognitive decline with diabetes, this study is one of the largest to establish the direct relationship between HbA1c (levels of glycated haemoglobin, a measure of overall blood sugar control) and subsequent risk of cognitive decline,” a statement noted.
All of the participants showed some level of cognitive decline during the ELSA assessment. However, those with higher-than-average levels of HbA1c (which is also used to assess if someone has diabetes) had a higher rate of decline.
Previously, there has been some suggestion that Alzheimer’s disease could be a sort of “type 3” diabetes. While that might not be strictly true, it does look like there could be some sort of effect from excess sugar on the mind.
About 5.5 million Americans had Alzheimer’s in 2017, which causes memory loss, difficulties in thinking, and more. There is no effective treatment available, with other factors linked to its development including smoking and high blood pressure.
“Dementia is one of the most prevalent psychiatric conditions strongly associated with poor quality of later life,” the lead author of this latest study, Wuxiang Xie from Imperial College London, told The Atlantic. “Currently, dementia is not curable, which makes it very important to study risk factors.”
Other studies have found some other unusual links, such as people who have type 2 diabetes being twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s. There’s also been a suggestion of a “tipping point”, a molecular link between blood sugar glucose and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our study provides evidence to support the association of diabetes with subsequent cognitive decline,” the researchers write in their paper.
“Our findings suggest that interventions that delay diabetes onset, as well as management strategies for blood sugar control, might help alleviate the progression of subsequent cognitive decline over the long-term," explained the team in the statement.